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Letter: Direct support professionals should be paid a living wage

Direct support professionals should be paid a living wage

I am exceptionally concerned about the workforce shortage facing nonprofit service providers and the 130,000 New York State citizens they serve with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nonprofit agency administrators, while advocating for the individuals and families they serve, echo that a crisis is at hand. Individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and New York State have greatly relied upon these nonprofit service providers since the Willowbrook tragedy in the 1970s.

Minimum-wage regulations affording greater compensation in other professions have placed nonprofit service providers in crisis as they attempt to obtain and retain direct support professionals (DSPs). Data from 155 responding nonprofit agencies in 2017 reveal that 14 percent of all DSP jobs were vacant; staff turnover is at 27 percent; 33 of DSPs plan to leave their job within 6 months; and more than 10 million hours of overtime hours were accumulated by existing staff.

New York State legislators display bipartisan support for the #bFair2DirectCare campaign advocating for nonprofit agency DSPs to be compensated fairly for their critical training and services. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is to be commended for the budgetary commitment for DSPs to reach a living wage by 2022. However, this goal must be reached by 2020 in order to avert a catastrophic system collapse and keep nonprofit service providers viable. Given the critical nature of this staffing crisis, #bFair2DirectCare advocates are asking Cuomo to hasten the ability for DSPs to earn a living wage.

As DSP staff vacancy, turnover and overtime mount, individuals with developmental disabilities face service depletion and are placed at great risk. Legislators should be reminded that nonprofit agency employees deserve appropriate compensation and must support the #bFair2DirectCare request of a living wage for DSPs by 2020.

Joseph Mangio

Tonawanda

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